Kimberley recovery must learn from Cyclone Seroja flaws 

Jan 9, 2023 | Neil Thomson MLC, State News

The Opposition has welcomed the announcement that flood effected Kimberley communities would be eligible for assistance through the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) but warned mistakes from previous recovery efforts must not be repeated. 

Shadow Emergency Services Minister Martin Aldridge said the once-in-one-hundred-year flooding event required a swift and significant response from the McGowan Labor Government. 

“Communities in the Kimberley were inundated with the equivalent of 20 years of Perth’s water consumption flowing through the region in a single day,” Mr Aldridge said. 

“There is an astronomical task at hand to ensure that those effected do not suffer extended periods of displacement and are able to rebuild quickly.” 

Mr Aldridge said the Government needed to learn from the flawed Cyclone Seroja recovery – which has attracted widespread criticism for its slow rollout, with less than $10 million in funding reaching those in need almost two years on from the disaster. 

“The McGowan Labor Government cannot make the same mistakes as they did during the Cyclone Seroja Recovery, where recovery funding has not hit the ground and hundreds are still waiting on assistance to rebuild their homes.” 

Mr Aldridge said ensuring trades were available in the remote Kimberley region amidst an ongoing skills shortage was also paramount. 

“One of the key challenges following Seroja, which the Government is still yet to address, has been establishing key worker accommodation in the region and incentivising trades to the Mid West to help with recovery. 

“The remoteness of the Kimberley means these challenges will be amplified ten-fold, and the Government will need to consider how they step up to meet this task.” 

Member for Mining and Pastoral Region Neil Thomson said the damage done was unprecedented, with critical infrastructure, including the bridge at Fitzroy Crossing, destroyed. 

“I am calling for the State to establish a Kimberley Flood Emergency Recovery Coordinator who reports directly to the Premier and who has the people and resources based in the Kimberley,” Mr Thomson said. 

“The overall price tag of this disaster is likely to top $1 billion and while the initial funding is welcomed, that is but a mere drop in the ocean to what will be needed in the future.” 

Mr Thomson said the McGowan Labor Government needs to take a locally focused approach to the disaster recovery efforts. 

“The Kimberley is not like Perth and people need to retain their community connections and cannot move to a nearby suburb,” he said. 

“It would be a tragedy if people are evacuated, then unable to return to their communities because there is insufficient housing.